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Harkins KA, Kullgren JT, Bellamy SL, Karlawish J, Glanz K. A Trial of Financial and Social Incentives to Increase Older Adults' Walking. American journal of preventive medicine. 2017 May 1; 52(5):e123-e130.
INTRODUCTION: Despite evidence that regular physical activity confers health benefits, physical activity rates among older adults remain low. Both personal and social goals may enhance older adults' motivation to become active. This study tested the effects of financial incentives, donations to charity, and the combined effects of both interventions on older adults' uptake and retention of increased levels of walking. STUDY DESIGN: RCT comparing three interventions to control. Data collection occurred from 2012 to 2013. Analyses were conducted in 2013-2016. PARTICIPANTS: Ninety-four adults aged = 65 years from Philadelphia-area retirement communities. INTERVENTION: All participants received digital pedometers, walking goals of a 50% increase in daily steps, and weekly feedback on goal attainment. Participants were randomized to one of four groups: (1) Control: received weekly feedback only; (2) Financial Incentives: received payment of $20 each week walking goals were met; (3) Social Goals: received donation of $20 to a charity of choice each week walking goals were met; and (4) Combined: received $20 each week walking goals were met that could be received by participant, donated to a charity of choice, or divided between the participant and charity. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Mean proportion of days walking goals were met during the 16-week intervention and 4-week follow-up period. RESULTS: After adjusting for baseline walking, the proportion of days step goals were met during the 16-week intervention period was higher in all intervention groups versus controls (relative risk, 3.71; 95% CI = 1.37, 10.01). During the 4-week follow up period, the proportion of days step goals were met did not differ in intervention groups compared to control (relative risk, 2.91; 95% CI = 0.62, 13.64). CONCLUSIONS: Incentive schemes that use donations to a charity of choice, personal financial incentives, or a combination of the two can each increase older adults' initial uptake of increased levels of walking. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study is registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov NCT01643538.